Cold Cups II

The Fan Who Sold His Honor & the
World Cup Coach Who Can’t Drive

Even if Fifa were a model of probity, which recent allegations have shown it clearly is not, or street rallies against its costs had cooled off with the start of the games, which they haven’t, the World Cup in Brazil has already provided a whole plethora of political drama.
From the multicultural bleachers to the quarrels over refereeing, from the quality of the grass drainage to antiaircraft artillery on civilian buildings, matches and goals have been thrilling, for sure, but what’s going on beyond the pitch may as well upstage it all.
As Brazilians protest the money bacchanal, brokered by Fifa and funded by its mega sponsors, and the competition heats up with record goals and relatively few surprises so far, one wonders whether there’s even space on the coverage for anything else. As it turns out, we make room for just that sort of thing.
For appalling mistakes committed by field officials are as much a part of the game as its players’ cheap theatrics, and with all certainty, will remain the theme of late night, heated discussions over tears and beers for years to come. It’s what’s not so obvious, though, that we’re most interested.
Thus, while that Barcelona star may be executing a perfect curvy free kick, out of sight and in the middle of a sea of multicolored tribute jerseys, someone may be giving a whole country a black eye, or a sympathetic one, by just flicking their wrist. At times, cameras may capture the moment but mostly, they may miss it.
And, just as life itself, the so called ‘teaching moments’ go beyond the walls of these temples of football, or through another march against high ticket prices on a street nearby. World Cup-related news, not so breaking but weird just the same, may be happening right across from the stadium, atop some apartment building.
The reach of this tournament may have a surprising sway both at the confluence of sports and morality, and as far as some court decision across the ocean. Coming July 13, regardless of who’ll lift the trophy, we’ll have gone through a common experience of such a planetary scale that each of these stories may count as much as the goals scored.
And you may thank your lucky shirts for we’re skipping altogether anything about the tragic Nigeria blast, that killed several people (in a replay of Uganda four years ago, remember?) or the Mexican drugpin who got nabbed by the Feds after he bought a ticket to the World Cup… on his own name. Smart.

GREED & CIVILITY AT THE STANDS
Speaking of most Brazilians, they may be fighting the good fight against corruption, but apparently José Humberto Martins is yet to get the memo. Last week in Natal, he was one of the thousands wearing a plastic poncho during the rain soaked Mexico vs. Cameroon game.
According to his own account, at some point, he was approached by a drenched tourist who offered to buy his cheap garment, unaware it was on sale for $14 elsewhere at the stadium. Not one to let the chance to make a buck pass, torrential pouring notwithstanding, José agreed to sell it on the spot: for $200!
The good name of soccer fans everywhere was rescued from the mud the following day, though, Continue reading

Helping Themselves

Brazilian Preachers Amass Their
Wealth & Followers by the Millions

They hold court to thousands every week, performing original songs in elaborated sets, just like any pop star. They routinely land on Forbes’s wealthiest lists, while their core audience is part of Brazil’s lowest income bracket. They were never known for civil liberties, though.
But despite protests, an evangelical preacher became the head of a rights commission at Brazil’s lower house. Since the 1970s, so-called messianic cults have thrived in the country. But no one expected these new multimillionaires to get so much political power so fast.
The issue has a particular tenor to it, since the rise of charismatic religions coincided with a decline of Catholicism in Brazil, and even a modest increase in the number of those who do not identify with any denomination. Specially now that a Brazilian bishop is considered a pope contender.
He’s a long shot, of course, even if Brazil has the biggest number of Catholics in the world. The problem is, Dom Odilio Scherer may be in tune with the Vatican, but is out of step with the majority, the only segment of the church capable of competing with the rise of the evangelicals.
Rome apparently turns its nose at Padre Marcelo Rossi, for example, a former personal trainer who became one of the wealthiest and most popular Catholic priests in Brazil, and who regularly sings and performs dance routines in front of 25,000 worshipers at his megachurch in São Paulo.
Like him, there are few others who also belt out songs, while ‘donning cowboy hats and crooning country tunes at Mass,’ and even publish Continue reading